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New Hanover County commissioners vote on resolution in support of military operations at ILM

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At their monthly meeting today, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners heard from members of the Wilmington International Airport Authority to discuss the issue of military jet hot-refueling.

Chair of the Airport Authority, Donna Girardot, opened with comments about military operations at ILM. The airport has been designated as a strategic location for the military, and benefits the local economy not with just fuel purchases, but also rental cars, restaurants and hotel rooms, she said.

The reason they’re there? Hot-refueling. Hot-refueling is the process of fueling up military jets while their engines are running. According to Girardot, some of the benefits include increased training time for air crews, shorter fueling times, and decreased maintenance needs for aircraft.

Military aircraft produce more noise and vibration than normal commercial air traffic. The Airport Authority says it held three meetings from April 30th to September 30th this year between the fixed-base operator, the military, tower and FAA to address the noise issue. The military quickly agreed to alter their flight paths and speed to curb the noise, according to Girardot.

The topic has been contentious, some claiming that it’s unpatriotic to ask military operations to stop at ILM, and others pushing back with the noise complaints. The debate came to a head during the meeting, when commissioners were asked to vote on a non-binding resolution expressing the county’s support for the military.

Commissioner Jonathan Barfield pointed out that it has nothing to do with patriotism — it has to do with taking care of people within the community.

“... We start painting people into a corner. Either you love the military or you don’t. Either you’re American or you’re not. It’s not about those kinds of things," Barfield said.

Board member Rob Zapple also chimed in, praising the conversations with the community members and airport authority to reach a solution that benefits everyone.

The board voted unanimously to accept the resolution proposed.